'Tis the season for Activision and Disney to compete for your hard-earned dollars.
Both companies have new versions of their increasingly addictive interactive game sets and both have made changes to lure us back into their playset universes.
Activision has added Skylanders SuperChargers ($75 for the starter pack) to the growing Skylanders franchise with a bevy of new figures ($13), power packs ($35) and vehicles ($35) sold separately to enhance the gaming experience.
The Starter Pack includes a Portal of Power, which connects to a gaming console, two action characters and one vehicle. The key here is that specific characters are matched to specific vehicles, which will entice Skylanders addicts to build up their collections and access "hidden" parts of the game. At last count there were 40 new figures and 40 vehicles available in addition to older characters and traps that can also be used.
As with previous incarnations of the Skylanders franchise, gameplay is addictive and may result in a missed meal or two.
To play, the Portal of Power has to be connected to your game console - there are different software packages for the PS4, Xbox One and 360 and Nintendo Wii U and 3DS. Once it's set up and the game is installed, players place a vehicle and two figures on the portal and they show up in the game. Newer figures can "share" a vehicle, but it's hit or miss when using those from older games. The older figures can be used, but may not be able to use a vehicle.
As with the other Skylanders games, game play goes far beyond bopping and bashing evil-doers or an opponent. Instead, players are transported into several "worlds" where they have to solve problems and avoid obstacles to reach specific goals.
The only problem we have with the Skylanders franchise is the availability of figures at the retail price. In the past, there have been problems finding the more popular characters - the extraordinary evil Kaos, for instance - without paying triple (or more) because collectors buy them all and then resell them.
The new Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition is a vast improvement over previous versions, with the folks at Disney finally coming to the realization that players need far more than basic fighting or minor adventures to keep them enticed.
Starter packs come with a new 3.0 edition base, two figures (ours were Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker), a Star Wars Twilight of the Republic play set piece and a web code card. The play set piece (and Power Packs) determine what game you're playing.
Set up is similar to Skylanders, where you plug the base into your game console and place Power Packs and figures on it.
Game play, especially with the Marvel and Star Wars sets, can be intense as you defeat villains and overcome obstacles by maneuvering your way through a maze of battles and obstacles that resemble scenes associated with the characters.
As with Skylanders, Disney offers a wide range of add-ons to enhance game play including Toy Boxes ($20), which are basically expansions for the Play sets, Power Disc Packs ($10), Playsets ($35), which contain two figures and Power Discs for new adventures, and figures ($14) ranging from Mickey Mouse to Groot. Also, as with Skylanders, figures from previous versions can be used, but their functionality may be limited.
In addition, you can download a few free Toy Boxes to use with characters you already have, play online against other gamers and create your own mini-games and stories.